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Researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel and Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston are working on a robotic endoscope. The size of a large pill, the magnetic microswimmer is powered by strong magnetic fields generated by an MRI machine.
The technology was recently published in the journal Biomedical Microdevices. A 20mm long, 5mm wide swimming tail made of copper and flexible polymer vibrates due to the magnets in the MRI machine and propels the capsule endoscope in the stomach. Propulsion speed is on the order of several millimeter per second.
What makes this endoscope truly different from current “capsule endoscopies,” which involves swallowing a pill-sized camera that takes pictures continuously until it is passed, is that electronics and microsensors embedded in the robotic endoscope will allow an operator to manipulate the magnetic field and guide the movement of — literally steer — the device through the GI tract.
In the future, the microswimmer may allow doctors to find difficult-to-diagnose, early stage cancer or allow for treatments such as biopsies or local drug delivery.